Professional service firms（下文简称 PSF）指的是投行、一线咨询公司以及顶级律师事务所和会计事务所等一系列提供专业服务的乙方公司。这些公司大概是世界上智力密度最高的地方。
· 快速学习能力：学东西很快，一般是名校背景 + 光鲜履历，一路走来没遇到过重大挫折，最多也就是和别的学霸交手互有胜负。从小就是顺风顺水，受大家瞩目，是长辈口中 “别人家的孩子”；
· 财务状况健康：收入通常还不错，而且日常开销基本都被公司 Cover，收入=资产；
当年阿里巴巴第一次拿软银的投资，就是蔡崇信建议马云拒绝了孙正义 4000 万美元的 Offer，只拿了 2000 万美元，让出了更少的股权。虽然创业公司在成长到一定阶段之后非常需要这样的人，但是想招到的难度很大。且不说蔡崇信，有的名校精英应届生只想着 MBB（麦肯锡、贝恩和波士顿咨询），连 BAT 都不入法眼，何况创业公司呢？
席间也聊到一个他之前鼓动朋友去做的一个项目——做信息中介把中国女生介绍到韩国的整容医院、抽成。这东西佣金比例高达 40%，市场分散（现在都是整过的小模特小明星介绍小姐妹过去），客单价高（几万到几十万），现金回流快，初期投资少。不过用户规模增长有限，不是风投特别喜欢的概念。后来他的那个朋友看不上这个 idea，觉得不够高大上，也就不做了。再后来，“完美诊所”、“美丽加”、“有氧” 等如雨后春笋。他们要涉足跨境这一块也只是早晚的事情。
同样是还在麦肯锡的时候，和麦府的一个AP吃饭，聊到我心中有个创业梦的时候，她就拼命鼓动我快点出去。 她有过很多次机会，做外面企业的高管，但是最后纠结来纠结去，还是觉得待在公司蛮好的——专车接送、五星级酒店、吃饭有预算、没有 KPI。一旦离开了公司，你没有酒店积分，没有航空里程，不再是酒店白金会员，吃饭掏的是自己的钱。她语重心长地告诉我
14年11月，我兼职的项目Gradchef.com（毕老师）告一段落，因为我们没有把一个兴趣项目转化成一个全职的创业项目。对这个产品有兴趣的朋友可以点击阅读原文看看我们 CEO Ming 的总结。我们的团队，除了我之外，当时还有两个在做投资银行，一个在做 PE。只有一个人（CEO）全职。
说到这里，这些在 PSF 学霸们的特点似乎很鲜明了，一个是不喜欢风险，另外一个就是不够接地气。前者导致他们不愿全职创业、做事情更愿意计算风险，但很少愿意试错，没有 MVP 概念、放不下高薪高福利的诱惑。后者导致他们即使克服了规避风险的强迫症，心里仍然只想着做高大上的项目，不愿意卷起袖子来干。而且他们没有兴趣真正深入研究市场，创业也总是以失败告终。着各种失败反过来又成为那些还在犹豫的前同事眼中的教训，如此一来，恶性循环。
2014年 有 13.5%的毕业的 MBA 选择到高科技行业就业，而 2008年 同比只有 5.6%；2013年18%的哈佛商学院的毕业生进入高科技领域，是 2008年 的 3 倍。在美国顶级的商学院，MBA 毕业后受到的雇佣起薪在金融业和 IT 业基本不相上下，后者有时还会更高一些。
当然空谈趋势是没有用的，以我创业的经历来看，有些办法可以帮助那些愿意到创业公司试一试的 PSF 聪明人们：
· 男女搭配，干活不累：一般夫妻两个人，一个继续从事 PSF 工作，另外一个去创业，以分散家庭面临的现金流风险。就算创业的那一方一直不赚钱，继续留在 PSF 的那一方一个月几万块收入也够两个人花啦；
· 给老板留一封情真意切的离职信：和老板聊聊，假装创业只是你的备胎，“组织” 才是真爱，创业失败了也可以回来求老板收留；
· 多感受一下外面的世界 ：做项目的时候尽量选二三线城市的项目或 Implementation（战略落地）的项目做。工作上若没法自主选择，则可以在休假的时候多出去逛逛，开阔一下眼界，了解一下到底是什么样的市场和顾客在支撑你的项目；
· 没有调查就没有发言权：偶尔也做做神秘顾客，就算不买也可以 Window shopping 或者打个 cold call 问问嘛，这些人年轻的时候在大学，一定也做过类似的学生项目吧；
因此 PSF 出来的小伙伴们也渐渐有了一些成功的创业案例，他们大多数都使用了我上面说的一条或者几条经验：
· 上海北京白领们颇喜欢的Pantry’s Best 派悦坊是麦肯锡出身的 Alumni 做的；
· YC 目前唯一的华人团队Strikingly是摩根·斯坦利出来的朋友做的；
· 和一个经纬的朋友晚饭，听说了个 89年 的男生的故事。他是那一届最早实现财务自由的人。当时放弃某 VC 的投资经理工作，转到了经纬投的一个公司从底层做起，一个月拿 5、6 千的工资，之后花了两年时间做到创业公司的 VP——他加入的公司叫陌陌；
· 香港中环有家煎饼果子店叫做老金煎饼（香港版的黄太吉啊），是一个从 Soc Gen 辞职的 trader 做的。
不过即使是这样，PSF 的聪明人们来到创业公司还是要准备好很多的文化冲击，从西装革履到短袖 T 恤之间，需要的可不只是脱几层衣服，而是扒几层皮。
有兴趣也可以看看一篇过来人写的文章：《How quitting my corporate job for my startup dream f*cked my life up》by Ali Mese。
Finally the SMS arrived:
“Tomorrow morning 5am, flight number AZ610 from Rome to NewYork.”
An SMS hitting my BlackBerry on Sunday evenings used to decide my destination and client for the coming week.
I was working for one of the top three global strategy consulting firms.
A life packed in a suitcase. A consulting life where you miss out on everything and everyone in life, except Excel spreadsheets. A fancy business life we are taught to be ideal slaves of, at top business schools whose degrees we are proud to hold.
After few hours of sleep, the private driver was taking me to the Rome Fiumicino airport so I could take my fancy business-class flight to NYC. Upon arrival, I was checking in to a fancy five-star hotel and heading to my client’s office afterwards.
The salary? It was fancy, too. The company was proud to be among the top payers of the industry.
There was something wrong with this consulting life, though. I couldn’t stand this bullsh*t any longer and one day I called my parents:
“Dad, mom, I just quit my job. I want to start my own startup.”
My mom almost had a heart attack. It wasn’t the first thing a perfectionist mother wanted to hear after encouraging me to graduate from the world’s top business schools with top grades.
I tried to ease her distress. No chance.
“Mom, I hate it. All these consultants are pretending to be happy and they are taking happiness pills. I get to sleep only 3–4 hours a day. All those benefits the company promised don’t exist. Remember the fancy five-star hotel? I am working almost 20 hours a day and I don’t even enjoy it. Fancy breakfast? We never have time to have that. Fancy lunch, dinner? It’s just a sandwich in front of our Excel spreadsheets.
Oh, by the way, instead of enjoying a champagne, I stare at spreadsheets during my entire business class flights, too. The fancy salary? I never have time to spend a single penny of it.
I hate my life, Mom, it’s such a loser life. I don’t even see my girlfriend. I can’t fake it anymore. I want to start my own business.”
My parents had retired after years of a 9–5 working routine at their secure and boring government jobs.
I knew that coming from a family with no entrepreneurial background, it would be difficult to explain my situation to them, but I didn’t expect the call next morning.
It was my mom on the phone:
“Sooooooooo, how is your business doing?! Is it growing?!”
No matter what I said, I couldn’t explain to her that a business needs more than one day to grow.
Girlfriend, Friends & Social Circle
Having had the most supportive girlfriend ever, it was now time I shared the news with my friends who were busy climbing the fancy career steps in the fancy corporate world.
I told everyone that I just quit my job to follow my startup dream. Some of my friends gradually stopped seeing me, probably because they thought there was something wrong with me since it was the second “fancy” job I had quit in a short period of time.
While the rest of my friends were supportive, there was, however, still something wrong with my relationship with them:
I soon realized I was starting to pull myself away from social gatherings.
Every time I met with those friends, I didn’t have many updates to give them in response to their repeated questions, such as, “So, how is your startup going? You are going to be the next Zuckerberg, right?” “Oh man, we are so proud of you and we are so sure you will soon receive a huge round of investment.”
Doing a startup was a long journey and I was putting myself under so much pressure by giving such a f*ck about what other people think.
Day by day, I was getting lonelier and more depressive as I avoided social occasions. My startup progress was not as fast as my social circle imagined it to be and I was fed up with telling people it took years for startups like Facebook and Twitter to arrive at where they are now.
The only comfortable place was next to my few entrepreneur friends. It was true, only an entrepreneur could understand an entrepreneur.
Cash, cash, cash.
As if the social pressure and loneliness were not enough, I was meeting the mother of all stresses: running out of cash much faster than I had imagined.
This was killing my productivity and ability to make proper decisions. I was panicking and rushing to be successful and to make money.
One day, I even found myself asking my girlfriend for a few cents because I had no money to buy bottled water. I didn’t know it was just the beginning of such a difficult life full of ups and downs…
Enough with the drama: more than two years have passed since those days. I am now writing this blog post in a beautiful resort in Phuket, Thailand, while enjoying my mojito.
Wait, I am not selling a dream. No, I haven’t become a millionaire startup founder.
However, my business has a constant stream of cash that allows me to travel the world and to work from wherever there is WiFi.
There are, however, five things I wish I had asked myself before starting this painful journey. Five questions I believe every future entrepreneur should ask himself before taking the first step to entrepreneurship:
1. Are you ready for the social pressure?
If you have friends and family who are not entrepreneurs, they won’t truly understand what you are trying to achieve and the public pressure will be even higher.
I cared so much about what other people think of me– so much that it ruined my life.
I was so hard on myself and punished myself with even more work so I could announce my success as soon as possible. That is, until the day I realized no one gave a f*ck about me, so why would I?
You are no more than a few seconds of attention other people give to a Facebook status. In 2014, no one has time to care about others in such a crowded, noisy world.
If you care so much about what others think, you will waste your time trying to prove that you are successful instead of focusing on your startup.
Get a life. I got mine quite late.
2. Are you single or do you have an extremely supportive partner?
As we grow up, we share more of our life with our partners than with our friends or family. While I was lucky to have such an amazing girl, it was so sad to see many of my entrepreneur friends breaking up with their girlfriends along the way.
Doing your own business is tough – way tougher than I could have ever imagined. Your mind is constantly f*cked up with a million things going on inside and no other person, including your girlfriend, has a single clue what is going on in there.
If you are not single, make sure your partner understands it’s sometimes normal not to have a mindset even for a simple kiss.
Yes, for a simple proper French kiss.
3. Do you have enough cash to last at least a year?
Good, then multiply that amount at least by three because you will be running out of your savings way faster than you ever imagined. Along the way, there will be so many hidden costs, accountant fees, lawyer needs, broken iPhones or PCs, etc.
Get ready for a smaller apartment, smaller food portions, or counting your cents, which you never cared about in your life previously.
The last few months before you totally run out of your cash will be especially difficult and the pressure will grow so exponentially that you won’t be able to sleep properly.
Success will come slowly, and cash will burn fast. Be smart – plan from day one.
4. Are you ready to sleep only few hours a day?
Having escaped from the corporate consulting world, I was thinking I was finally going to live the dream by working whenever I wanted to work – until I read Lori Greiner’s following quote:
“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”
Thanks for the photo, Ian, the awesome photographer. http://ianmurchison.com
It all started by little wake-ups in the middle of the night. At the beginning, it was because I was too excited about my ideas and I had so many of them. I simply couldn’t wait for the morning to arrive so that I could start working again.
Then came the exaggeration phase. I was working too much because I never had enough of working for my idea and I wanted to do more. However, the more I worked and the later I went to bed, the more difficult it was to fall asleep and the lower the quality of my sleep became.
As a result, at least two or three days of every week I was having days with almost no productivity.
Don’t be fooled by my fancy Instagram picture above. Don’t be fooled by over-hyped funding news about startup founders becoming millionaires.
The stories behind the scenes have so many painful days, sleepless nights, and continuous rejections and failures.
The journey to success is long. Very long. Very often, too long.
5. How do you define success?
Each of us has a different priority list in life. For most people, money is the number one priority on the list, while work-life balance ranks higher for others. Consequently, people define success differently.
Depending on your definition of success, the difficulty of your entrepreneurial journey will differ, too. If money and public success are what matters to you the most, you are likely to have a hard time along your journey.
Remember Hemingway’s wise words:
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Successful entrepreneurs are not necessarily those who raise millions of investment rounds. Don’t forget, they are one in a million.
There are, however, thousands of dreamers out there who manage to bootstrap their startups or live so well off on their own, but even they do not make it to the top of tech news.
No matter how much your journey f*cks up your life or how difficult it will be, enjoy the ride and keep following your passion. As Tony Gaskin puts it perfectly:
“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.”